The ranch boasts a uniquely diverse terrain, including miles of Joshua Creek and Guadalupe River bottomland planted in fields of grain crops for prime pheasant habitat; limestone bluffs that rise to oak and elm studded pastures lush with prairie grasses – perfect quail hunting cover; and densely wooded areas conducive to Texas deer hunting.
Black’s Wing & Clay Waterfowl sat down with Ann Kercheville, half of the Joshua Creek Ranch ownership team, to find out a little more about their unique destination.
BWCW: How did your preserve get its start?
Joshua Creek Ranch: My husband Joe and I bought the ranch in 1986 as a place to settle in and raise longhorn cattle. Two events triggered the decision to change our intentions for the ranch. First, Texas went into a deep depression, which meant we couldn’t sell our smaller ranch nor could we make good on our original intentions for Joshua Creek. Second, about the same time we travelled to Scotland for a driven pheasant shoot and fell in love with the experience. While there we encountered many U.S. citizens travelling to do the same. Upon our return, we realized the diversity of our property could offer a similar experience in the heart of Texas Hill Country. So it was really driven pheasant shooting that spurred the idea of Joshua Creek Ranch, which officially opened in 1990.
BWCW: Describe the amenities of your operation.
JCR: This is Texas. You can’t have wingshooting in Texas without quail, which is our biggest volume of hunting. We also offer a mixed bag hunt on a variety of terrain for quail, chukar and pheasant, which is a very popular option. Our wingshooting season runs from October through March. Of course, Sporting Clays is big year-round. Joshua Creek Ranch features a 12-station automated course available to guests, and we occasionally host larger events. We also offer hunts for native Whitetail deer, and Axis deer were introduced to area and have really taken off in this habitat. Summer is prime time for Axis, and our entire property is low fence, free range. Rainbow trout are stocked in Joshua Creek, a spring-fed creek that runs for 2 miles through the ranch. Guest are able to canoe, kayak and tube on the Guadalupe River, which serves as the property’s northern boundary.
Lodging on the property has evolved over the years – we started with the original house, built in 1950, featuring limestone walls and natural stone flooring; the home’s two large bedrooms serve as bunkrooms. We reconfigured the stable to accommodate lodging by building 6 en suites, and we recently constructed three guest houses – a 3-bedroom, a 2-bedroom, and a 1-bedroom model – as we do not mix parties.
BWCW: What is appealing about your location?
JCR: The Texas hill country is probably the greatest surprise to people who have not been to Texas. Most people picture [Texas as] a great open treeless space. Hill Country is live oak trees, rolling hills, springs, and spring-fed creeks and rivers – very un-typical of what people visualize. Our property is cut almost in two by Joshua Creek, which is lined almost entirely with Cypress trees. On either side is flood plain – open fields and river bottom land. In several places, big limestone rock bluffs rise above dry creek beds, which we use for driven bird shoots. And the rolling hills feature lightly wooded grass pastures – perfect for walk-up hunting with pointing and flushing dogs. Fields are planted with bird cover crops, alternating strips of oats & wheat. Even invasive juniper is used to our advantage to create breaks between hunting pastures. The diversity of the property is simply incredible.
BWCW: How many employees do you have, and what roles do they play in your business?
JCR: Joshua Creek Ranch is managed primarily by me (Joe has another career). We have hunting guides and shooting instructors on staff, several guest services people to assist clients with their needs and communicate with various staff, and food service and housekeeping staff. Our on-site kennel has 50-60 dogs – English setters, GSPs, and English Pointers, English cockers (which have a surprising stamina to endure the rigors of this climate). Of course, we encourage guests to bring their dogs – all accommodations include kenneling.
BWCW: When and how did you and your husband get involved in hunting & shooting?
JCR: Hunting and shooting have been Joe’s passion since childhood, so he introduced me to hunting when we met. All our vacations are hunting focused – Scotland, England, Spain, Czech Republic, Africa, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Canada (big game).
BWCW: What are some specific keys to your success?
JCR: I think one of the things pretty key [to our success] is our own experience – we’ve picked up and brought home many ideas from our travels, and made some observations that we did not want to duplicate. In essence, we’ve put the best ideas and experiences to work at Joshua Creek. We offer to tailor a guest’s visit to fit their needs, so every itinerary is unique. That has really contributed enormously to our success. The hunt itself is unique, too – hunts are organized in half-days, with unlimited quail, mixed bag, continental and driven options – and can be combined with any other opportunities on the ranch. We are truly flexible and agreeable, including the weather, to deliver a good experience to visitors.
BWCW: How do you work at growing your customer base?
JCR: Our business has grown mostly by word of mouth. In 2010 we received the Beretta Trident Lodge designation, which is the kind of recognition you just can’t buy. That designation has shone a big spotlight on the Ranch, and the press we’ve received has been phenomenal. However, all that recognition is kind of like a college degree – it will open the door, but the key to our success is the delivery of expectation.
BWCW: Any hard lessons along the road that have made you a better operation?
JCR: Don’t put all your birds in one hatchery (literally)… The hardest really good birds to find are quail, and in the very early years our primary source was in Florida; we had the birds flown in. Unfortunately, a hurricane hit [the hatchery] and wiped out the entire supply. We scrambled to find other sources for good quail to meet our client needs that year. Ultimately, we learned the importance of having an array of quality suppliers so as to not to be too affected by weather extremes and natural disasters, which can significantly affect bird breeders. Also, we always strive to be absolutely honest with clients about conditions on the Ranch, both before and during their visit.
BWCW: Describe one or two highlights during Joshua Creek Ranch’s history.
JCR: Perhaps our most exciting time was a few years back, when we celebrated our 20th anniversary throughout the year with a number of special events. At the conclusion of the season we hosted a fiesta with a pigeon shoot and a great dinner for our members. Of course, we have hosted some celebrities and politicians through the years, too.
For Joshua Creek Ranch’s complete contact information and a link to their Web site, click here.
All Photos by Terry Allen